Some hams don’t partipate in SOTA out of a mistaken notion that they don’t have the necessary equipment/skill/physique. Let’s look at some things you do NOT need in order to participate in SOTA.
In order to be an activator, you do NOT need
- 10,000’ mountains. Even Mississippi has a SOTA summit. It is a lofty 730’ at the summit. Georgia has over 130 summits, with none reaching 4800’.
- An SUV with 4-wheel drive. Many trailheads are accessible via paved highways. Others are accessible via roads in good condition. Some do require 4WD, but one hame made it to 74 different summits in the southeast in an ‘all-terrain’ Corolla.
- Topographic maps, bushwhacking or mountain-climbing skill. There are detailed directions on how to reach many summits. Most of those summits are accessible via clear hiking trails. Some are reached 100% via roads. A few will require a bushwhack.
- Hiking boots. Boots are nice for some trails. However, some ‘trails’ are paved and others are a short walk on an easy trail, and sneakers are plenty good. Some of the most remote summits in Georgia have been reached in nothing more than 5 year-old jogging shoes.
- Good physical conditioning. If you’re thinking, “I really need to get in better shape before I try activating,” consider a drive-up or a nearly drive-up summit. If you can participate in Field Day, you’ve got the stamina to activate several summits in the southeast. There are summits you can activate even if you’re in a wheelchair! (Email me if you’re in this category and you want to know how.)
- An expensive specialty radio. If you own a solid-state rig and you can carry it and a battery across a parking lot, you’ve got the radio you need. You can activate many summits with nothing more than an HT. If you’re a CW operator, you can activate with a “Tuna Tin” or other cheap kit. Shucks - you don’t even really need to own a radio. Email an activator and ask if you can tag along on an activation and use his radio.
- An entire day. If you’re in the Atlanta area, there are at least 3 different summits which could be activated in a morning or an afternoon. (If you’ve got a whole summer day, you could go for the full set!)
- CW skills. There are activators who reach Mountain Goat using SSB.
- Fast CW skills. I struggle at 13 WPM. There are guys who go out at 10 WPM. You might put off a few chasers at 5 WPM, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get 4 chasers at 5 WPM if you have a strong signal.
- Great operating skill. My first QSO was a SOTA activation. I can assure you (as can the chasers) that I was inept. (Shucks, I’m barely ‘ept’ now.)
- A fancy antenna. If you have a tuner or an ATU, just throw 29’ of wire in a tree and lay out a similar counterpoise. One of the most popular SOTA antennas is an EFHW, such as the PAR Trail-friendly.
- A General Class license. There are successful VHF activators.
In order to be a chaser, you do NOT need
- A beam at 60’. OK. I’ll admit that this helps. However, you can be a successful chaser with an NVIS on 40 meters. With a better antenna, you can chase activators around the world. With a lesser antenna, you just stick to activators closer to home.
- CW (or SSB). There are activators who work strictly CW, activators who work strictly USB, and there are activators who work both. You’ll have more opportunity if you can run both. You’ll even find a few activators who can work PSK31 or RTTY. (There are some CW-only activators, because the smallest radios are CW-only.)
- Fast CW skills. A slow chaser will struggle more than a slow activator. If the activator calls CQ at 10 WPM, everyone answers at 10 WPM. If you’re a slow-CW chaser and you tune in to a 25 WPM activation, you’re not going to be able to tell who’s who. But… Pick up the activator’s call sign from SOTAWatch, and just wait until the beeping mostly stops, and send your call sign at your speed. Most activators will respond at your speed. (Some of them have keyers that make this tough, so you might get fast characters with BIG spacing.)
- A General Class license or an HF rig. (See activator non-needs.) If you’re chasing VHF or 10 meters, be sure and contact the activator in advance, and ask him to work your band. If you have a VHF beam 30’ AGL in north Georgia, you could be a very popular chaser. There is a shortage of chasers working VHF in this area, and there are activators who would love to carry only an HT.
- A ham license. What??!! It’s true. There is an SWL category in SOTA for non-hams.
No excuses! You have what you need to participate in SOTA.
See you on the summits! 73 DE K4KPK / Kevin
Where can I find out more?
- Official site: http://sotadata.org.uk/
- Mailing list: https://groups.yahoo.com/groups/summits
- K4KPK’s site: http://k4kpk.com/content/sota-menu
- Email me (K4KPK). My email address is available via http://www.qrz.com/db/K4KPK.
K4KPK, Kevin Kleinfelter is Georgia’s first SOTA Mountain Goat. His first QSO was on a backpacking trip to a 5300’ summit with his 12 year-old son. He has more than 125 activations in the southeast.
This story is Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Kleinfelter. A non-exclusive right to redistribute in electronic or printed form is granted to amateur radio clubs operating in the metro Atlanta area. All other rights reserved.